Sunday, December 11, 2011

POV: Color or Monochrome?

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
I've meaning to address this question for a while now, especially as I seem to have entered a monochromatic phase in my own photographic evolution. With a couple of exceptions, all the photo essays I produced over the past 18 months have been in black & white...those of Bali, the one of tango in Buenos Aires, and those of Gujarat...all black & white.

My most recent Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo~Expedition & Workshop™ suggested this notion to its participants:

"Participants will merge their still photography and audio to create compelling narratives. While black & white photography may lend itself better in the context of this particular workshop, it is left to each participant to decide on whether to produce narratives in color or monochrome."

My reasoning behind this recommendation was straightforward. I insisted in having the participating photographers focus their photography purely on the documentary narrative rather than being seduced (and distracted) by the powerful colors of India, of Kolkata and of the Durga Puja in particular. I also wanted the participants to capture the rawness of what they photographed...not embellished by the bells and whistles of color.

In that, I succeeded. The participants' projects were all very well edited and produced, and were focused on the rituals of the event, with no splashes of color to divert the viewers' attention from the going-ons. Yes, the garlands of marigold were gray in their audio slideshows instead of brilliant yellow, the women's vermillion powder was also gray...but this didn't diminish the power of their visual narratives.

My own recent Khari Baoli: Old Delhi's Spice Bazaar audio slideshow was shot in color but produced in  monochrome; a decision that was difficult to make because -as seen from the one of its still photographs (above) - the yellows of the turmeric burlap sacks, the purple of the porter's head cloth along with the various degrees of whites and grays of the scene, all make it much more seducing to the senses than its monochromatic version. So should I have opted for color instead?

No...because my intention in the audio slideshow was not to 'seduce' with colors but to do so with the grittiness and edginess of the monochrome...the same rationale I followed in suggesting monochrome during the Kolkata workshop.

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